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Saturn Opposition Data, 2023-30

Saturn Conjunctions with other Planets, 2023-25

Moon near Saturn Dates, 2024

Saturn's five brightest moons

Saturn Through the Telescope

Saturn's Orbit & Ring Aspects

Position of Saturn, 2014-22


The Position of Saturn in the Night Sky:

2023 to 2031

 by Martin J. Powell

 

Where is Saturn tonight? This star chart shows the path of Saturn through the constellations of Aquarius, Pisces, Aries and Taurus from 2023 to 2031. Click for full-size image (Copyright Martin J Powell 2022)

The path of Saturn against the background stars of Aquarius, Pisces, Aries and Taurus from February 2023 to July 2031, with positions marked on the first day of each month (click on the thumbnail for the full-size chart). The dates are colour-coded by year; a quick-glance legend is towards the lower right (e.g. all 2028 positions are shown in orange). Periods when the planet is unobservable (when it is too close to the Sun, or passes behind it) are indicated by a dashed line; hence Saturn becomes lost from view (in the evening sky) in early April 2028 and becomes visible again (in the morning sky) in early May 2028. The star map applies to observers in the Northern hemisphere (i.e. North is up); for the Southern hemisphere view, click here.

The faintest stars on the map have an apparent magnitude of about +4.8. Printer-friendly versions of this chart are available for Northern and Southern hemisphere views. Astronomical co-ordinates of Right Ascension (longitude, measured Eastwards in hrs:mins from the First Point of Aries, shown on the map by the symbol Astrological symbol of the 'First Point of Aries' (Vernal Equinox)) and Declination (latitude, measured in degrees North or South of the celestial equator) are marked around the border of the chart. Click here to see a 'clean' star map of the area (i.e. without planet path); observers may wish to use the 'clean' star map as an aid to plotting the planet's position on a specific night - in which case, a printable version can be found here. Photographs of the constellations through which Saturn passes during the period can be seen below.

The chart shows the changing shape of Saturn's apparent looping formation as it moves through the zodiac, from shallow loops in Aquarius between 2023 and 2025 to more open loops for much of the rest of the period. For a fuller description of the planets' apparent loops against the background stars, refer to the Planet Movements page.

Star names shown in yellow-green were officially adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2017. Three of the four such names shown on this chart were drawn from Hindu and Mayan mythology (for more details see the IAU's Working Group on Star Names pages).

Having spent almost three years in the constellation of Capricornus, the Sea-Goat, Saturn heads out of view in the dusk sky in late January 2023, positioned close to the constellation's Eastern border with Aquarius, the Water-Bearer. The planet enters Aquarius in mid-February of that year, being too close to the Sun to observe at this time.

Saturn emerges into the morning sky - rising in the Eastern sky at dawn - in early March 2023 at the start of its 2023-24 apparition, positioned a short distance to the NNE of the star  Greek lower-case letter 'iota' Aqr (Iota Aquarii, apparent magnitude +4.2). During this apparition Saturn describes a flattened Southward-facing loop in central Aquarius, positioned some 10 to the South of the constellation's most identifiable asterism (star pattern) known informally as The Steering Wheel. The planet reaches its Eastern stationary point in mid-June 2023 before turning retrograde (moving East to West) and reaching opposition (its closest and brightest orbital position in relation to the Earth for that year) in late August 2023, positioned about 4 to the South-east of the star Ancha (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Aqr or Theta Aquarii, mag. +4.1). Saturn continues its Westward motion thereafter, reaching its Western stationary point in early November of that year. It then regains direct motion (West to East), remaining visible for a further 3 months before heading out of view in the dusk twilight in mid-February 2024.

Saturn imaged by Nobuya Minagawa in August 2021. Click for a larger version (Image: Nobuya Minagawa/ALPO-Japan)Saturn imaged by Nobuya Minagawa (Tokyo, Japan) on August 4th 2021 when the planet was two days past opposition (click on the thumbnail for a larger image). Minagawa used a 235mm (9-inch) Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector telescope fitted with a CMOS camera (Image: Nobuya Minagawa / ALPO-Japan)

Saturn re-emerges into the dawn sky in mid-March 2024, heralding the start of its 2024-25 apparition, positioned a short distance to the SSE of the star Greek lower-case letter 'lambda' Aqr (Lambda Aquarii, mag. +5.8). The planet describes another flattened South-facing loop in North-eastern Aquarius, located to the SSW of the Circlet of Pisces, the most identifiable asterism of the neighbouring constellation Pisces, the Fishes. Saturn reaches its Eastern stationary point at the end of June 2024 before turning retrograde and reaching opposition in the second week of September, positioned about 2 to the South-west of the star Greek lower-case letter 'phi' Aqr (Phi Aquarii, mag. +4.2). The planet continues its Westward motion, reaching its Western stationary point in mid-November of that year. It then regains direct motion, remaining visible for a little over three months before heading out of view in the dusk sky in late February 2025.

The ringed planet emerges into the morning sky in late March 2025 at the start of its 2025-26 apparition, positioned in North-eastern Aquarius, about a degree South of its border with Pisces. Now being only a short distance South of the celestial equator (where the declination of a celestial body is 0), Saturn rises close to due East and sets close to due West throughout this apparition. Saturn enters Pisces in mid-April 2025, describing its 2025-26 South-facing loop on the border between the two constellations. The planet reaches its Eastern stationary point in mid-July 2025, positioned some 3 to the ESE of the First Point of Aries (the Sun's Vernal equinox point). Saturn turns retrograde and reaches opposition in the third week of September, positioned only 21' (0.35) away from the Piscean border with Aquarius. Since its rings are now almost edgewise-on to the Earth, it is Saturn's dimmest opposition since 2010. Saturn continues Westward, crossing back into Aquarius nine days after opposition, reaching its Western stationary point in late November 2025. It then regains direct motion, crossing back into Pisces in mid-January 2026 and remaining visible for a further seven weeks before heading out of view in the evening sky in early March 2026. Whilst out of view, in late March, Saturn crosses to the North of the celestial equator and two weeks later enters the non-zodiacal constellation of Cetus, the Whale.

Saturn's 2026-27 apparition commences with its first appearance in the dawn sky in mid-April 2026, positioned near the North-western corner of Cetus. The planet's South-facing loop is described mostly in Cetus, with a partial overlap in Pisces; Saturn's position close to the celestial equator means that it will continue to rise near due East and set near due West throughout the apparition. The planet re-enters Pisces through its Southern border whilst moving direct (North-eastwards) at the start of June 2026, reaching its Eastern stationary point in late July. It then turns retrograde and heads back into Cetus in the first week of September, reaching opposition in that constellation in early October, positioned about 6 to the SSW of the star Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Psc (Delta Piscium, mag. +4.4). Saturn then continues retrograde motion, reaching its Western stationary point in mid-December, about a degree North of the celestial equator. It then resumes direct motion and re-enters Pisces in the final week of February 2027. A month later Saturn heads out of view in the dusk twilight.

Saturn re-appears in the dawn sky in late April 2027 at the start of its 2027-28 apparition, located towards the 'tail-end' of Pisces. The planet is now a couple of degrees South of Revati (Greek lower-case letter 'zeta' Psc or Zeta Piscium, mag. +5.2), a star which was formerly assigned this name by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2017. Saturn's open, South-facing loop is described between the tails of the Fishes, the planet reaching Eastern stationary point in mid-August 2027, a degree South of the star Torcular (Greek lower-case letter 'omicron' Psc or Omicron Piscium, mag. +4.2). The planet turns retrograde and reaches opposition in mid-October in the tail of the Southern Fish, positioned a degree North-east of the star Greek lower-case letter 'mu' Psc (Mu Piscium, mag. +4.8) . Continuing South-westwards Saturn reaches its Western stationary point in the fourth week of December, positioned a few degrees West of Greek lower-case letter 'mu' Psc. After returning to direct motion the planet heads out of view some 3 months later at the start of April 2028, by this time located a short distance East of Torcular.

Saturn sketched by Paul G Abel in August 2021. Click for a larger version (Image: Paul G Abel/ALPO-Japan)Saturn sketched by Paul G Abel (Leicester, UK) in August 2021, one day past opposition (click on the thumbnail for a larger image). Abel observed the planet using a 305mm (12-inch) Newtonian reflector telescope at 150x and 188x magnifications (Image: Paul G Abel / ALPO-Japan)

When Saturn returns to view in the morning sky in the second week of May 2028, it is just approaching the three-way border between Pisces, Cetus and Aries, the Ram, the latter of which the planet enters a few days later. Saturn's 2028-29 open, South-facing loop is described in South-western Aries, just touching its border with Cetus. The planet reaches Eastern stationary point in the final week of August 2028 in central Southern Aries, retrograding to an opposition at the end of October, positioned about a degree to the North of the star Greek lower-case letter 'xi' Ari (Xi Arietis, mag. +5.4). Saturn's South-westward motion carries it back into Cetus in the third week of December 2028, its Western stationary point being reached in early January 2029, precisely on the border between Aries and Cetus. On re-entering Aries the ringed planet proceeds in direct motion North-eastwards, heading out of view in the dusk sky some 3 months later in mid-April 2029.

Saturn returns to view in the dawn sky in the final week of May 2029, heralding the start of the planet's 2029-30 apparition. Its open, South-facing loop is mostly described in South-eastern Aries, with a three-month occupancy of neighbouring Taurus, the Bull. The planet crosses into Taurus in the fourth week of July 2029, reaching Eastern stationary point in the first week of September, positioned about 4 North of the star 5 Tau (5 Tauri, mag. +4.1). Retrograde motion carries the ringed planet back into Aries in the fourth week of October, reaching its opposition in mid-November, positioned some 4 to the SSE of the star Botein (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Ari or Delta Arietis, mag. +4.3). Western stationary point is reached in the third week of January 2030, 5 to the SSW of Botein. On returning to direct motion Saturn re-enters Taurus in the second week of April, heading out of view in the dusk sky by the end of that month.

Saturn re-appears in the morning sky in early June 2030, positioned about 6 to the SSE of the star cluster known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters (Messier 45 or M45), Taurus' most famous asterism. Now positioned in the Northernmost constellation of the zodiac, the planet rises close to its most Northerly point on the local horizon (North-east at higher Northern and higher Southern latitudes and towards the ENE at latitudes in-between) and will continue to do so throughout its 2030-31 apparition. Saturn's shallow, South-facing loop is described just to the North-west of the Bull's other famous asterism: the Hyades, a distinct 'V'-shaped grouping of stars which form the head of the Bull. The planet reaches its Eastern stationary point in the third week of September 2030, located about half a degree North of the star Ain (Greek lower-case letter 'epsilon' Tau or Epsilon Tauri , mag. +3.5) which marks the Northern 'eye' of the Bull figure. Saturn retrogrades Westwards to an opposition in late November, positioned about 2 to the North-west of the star Secunda Hyadum (Greek lower-case letter 'delta'1 Tau or Delta-1 Tauri, mag. +3.7) in the Hyades. Saturn now sets towards the North-west at higher Northern and higher Southern latitudes and towards the WNW at latitudes in-between. Western stationary point is reached in early February 2031, some 6 to the South-east of the Pleiades. On turning direct the planet passes to the North of the Hyades over the next few months, heading out of view in the dusk sky around mid-May 2031.

Saturn returns to view in the dawn sky in the third week of June 2031, exiting the star map in the following month as it passes between the horns of the Bull.

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Opposition Data

Saturn reaches opposition to the Sun (when it is closest to the Earth and brightest in the sky for the year) every 378 days on average, i.e. about 13 days later in each successive year. Around opposition, Saturn is due South at local midnight in the Northern hemisphere (due North at local midnight in the Southern hemisphere). Details of the eight Saturnian oppositions covered by the above star map are given in the table below. Note how the planet's appearance changes slightly at each opposition, the ring system displaying varying tilt angles to the Earth as it orbits the Sun (for more details, see the diagram of Saturn's orbit). Like the other Solar System planets, Saturn's apparent size (its angular diameter as seen from the Earth) varies slightly at each opposition because its orbit is slightly elliptical.

The dates on which Saturn reaches superior conjunction (i.e. when it passes behind the Sun as seen from the Earth) are also shown in the table. The planet is not normally visible from the Earth for about two weeks on either side of these dates.

Saturn opposition data for the period 2023 to 2030 (click for full-size table)

Saturn opposition data for the period 2023 to 2030 (click on thumbnail for full-size table). The Declination is the angle of the planet to the North (+) or South (-) of the celestial equator; on the star chart, it represents the planet's angular distance above or below the blue line. The angular diameter (or apparent size) of the planet as seen from Earth is given in arcseconds (where 1 arcsecond = 1/3600th of a degree).

Note that Saturn's distance at each opposition slowly reduces through to 2032, causing its angular diameter to increase slightly year by year. Saturn's apparent magnitude (brightness) reaches a minimum when the Earth passes through the planet's ring-plane in 2025 and begins to brighten again thereafter; it will reach a 'peak' in 2032 when the rings are almost fully open.

The Ring Tilt (the ring plane opening angle to the Earth) is positive (+) when Saturn's Northern hemisphere is tipped towards the Earth and negative (-) when the planet's Southern hemisphere is tipped towards the Earth; the maximum value it can attain is 27.0. The Ring Tilt values were obtained from the SETI Institute's Saturn Ephemeris Generator 3.0. All other data was obtained from the software 'Redshift', the 'SkyGazer Ephemeris' utility and the Cielo e Terra website. The Saturn images were modified by the writer from Kyle Edwards' Solar System Imaging Simulator.

Ring System

Saturn's rings last appeared edge-on to the Earth in September 2009, when the Earth passed through the planet's ring plane, following which their Northern face came into view. The Southern face will come into view after the next ring plane crossing in March 2025.

The rings were previously fully open to the Earth in late 2017, at which time Saturn's Northern hemisphere was tipped in our direction. They will next be fully open in 2032, when the planet's Southern hemisphere is tipped in our direction.

By a stroke of good luck on nature's part, Saturn's perihelion (its closest orbital point to the Sun) takes place only a short while after the planet's Southern pole is tilted at its greatest angle towards the Earth, so at these times - namely, every 29 years - we are treated to a splendid, 'close-up' view of both the globe and the ring system when seen through Earthbound telescopes. Saturn last passed perihelion in 2003 and will next pass it in late 2032, when it will be 9.015 Astronomical Units (838 million miles or 1,348 million kms) from the Sun.

For Northern hemisphere observers the situation is even better: whenever it is near perihelion, Saturn rides high in the sky on the Taurus/Gemini border, giving the best possible observing conditions for telescopic observers; this will next happen in mid-2033.

Saturn will reach aphelion (its furthest orbital point from the Sun) in Sagittarius in 2047, when it will be 10.046 AU (1,503 million kms or 934 million statute miles) from the Sun. Southern hemisphere observers will then be ideally placed to observe the fully-open Northern face of the rings. The planet will reach its most Southerly point in the zodiac in the following year.

[Terms in yellow italics are explained in greater detail in an associated article describing planetary movements in the night sky.]

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Saturn Conjunctions with other Planets,

January 2023 to June 2025

Viewed from the orbiting Earth, whenever two planets appear to pass each other in the night sky (a line-of-sight effect) the event is known as a planetary conjunction or appulse. Not all planetary conjunctions will be visible from the Earth, however, because many of them take place too close to the Sun. Furthermore, not all of them will be seen from across the world; the observers' latitude will affect the altitude (angle above the horizon) at which the two planets are seen at the time of the event, and the local season will affect the sky brightness at that particular time. A flat, unobstructed horizon will normally be required to observe most of them.

The majority of conjunctions involving Saturn are not particularly spectacular to view because the planet is usually positioned far away from the Earth and is therefore not especially bright - Saturn looking like an ordinary, pale-yellow star. Those involving Venus will always take place at solar elongations of less than 47 from the Sun, whilst those involving Mercury will always take place at less than about 27 from the Sun. In both of these instances twilight is often a problem, the lighter sky diminishing the visual impact of the conjunction.

Saturn's most interesting conjunctions take place when the planet is within a few months of opposition - and is therefore very bright - at which times they involve either Jupiter or Mars; these events are however very rare. Most conjunctions between Saturn and Jupiter (or Saturn and Mars) occur at elongations of less than 90, when Saturn is far from its brightest in any given apparition. Between 2023 and 2025, for example, only one conjunction is positioned more than 90 from the Sun, the majority taking place at solar elongations of less than 47. In all cases, Saturn shines no brighter than a relatively dim apparent magnitude of +0.7, not only due to the planet's great distance but also because its ring aspect to the Earth narrows significantly during the period.

The 2023-2025 period contains seven planetary conjunctions involving Saturn, five of which are in the morning sky and two of which are in the evening sky.

Five of the conjunctions are with Venus. The easiest to view is that on January 20th 2025, when Venus passes 2.5 to the South of Saturn in the evening sky. The planets' location in Aquarius (not far from the celestial equator), together with the wide solar elongation of 47 (only ten days after Venus' greatest elongation day), means that the conjunction is seen in darkness from across the inhabited world. As Saturn comes into view in the dusk twilight, the pair are positioned 29 high in the SSW at 50 North, 39 high in the South-west at 30 North and 40 high in the West at the Equator. In the Southern hemisphere they are placed 30 high in the West (at 25 South), 23 high in the West (at 35 South) and 15 high in the West (at 45 South). At magnitude -4.4 Venus is close to its brightest, however Saturn is a poor magnitude +1.0, which is close to its dimmest since its rings are more or less edge-on to the Earth at this time.

The next best Venus-Saturn conjunction of the period is also in the evening sky on January 22nd 2023, when Venus (mag. -3.8) passes 22' (0.36) South of Saturn (+0.7). Because of the fairly narrow solar elongation (22), as the ringed planet comes into view in the dusk twilight, the event is only seen at low altitude from across the world. At 50 North the pair are positioned at an altitude of only 10 above the South-western horizon, whilst at latitudes from 30 North to the Equator they are only 16 high in the WSW. As Saturn comes into view in the Southern hemisphere, the pair are only 10 high in the West at 25 South and just 8 high in the WSW at 35 South.

The Venus-Saturn conjunction on the morning of April 29th 2025 is observable from latitudes South of the mid-Northern hemisphere. At 40 North the planets reach 13 above the ESE horizon when Saturn disappears from view whilst at 20 North they are 25 high in the ESE. From the Equator Southwards the pair are positioned between 32 and 36 high (about 'one-third of the way up the sky') towards the East (Equator) or the North-east (45 South) at the ringed planet's disappearance.

The remaining two conjunctions between Venus and Saturn are more challenging to the naked-eye observer since they take place at solar elongations of less than 20. The morning conjunction of March 22nd 2024 is only observable from South of the Northern Tropics, the pair at best reaching only 13 high in the Eastern sky at Saturn's disappearance. The 10-wide dawn conjunction of March 30th 2025 takes place at the start of both Saturn's 2025-26 apparition and Venus' 2025 morning apparition and is the most challenging of all of the seven conjunctions. On this occasion Venus is pulling away from the Sun and is moving retrograde just prior to looping through the Circlet of Pisces. This conjunction is followed a month later by a second with Saturn on April 29th (described above), by which time Venus is moving direct, having completed its loop and having left the Circlet of Pisces behind it. The conjunction is visible only between latitudes 7 North and about 45 South, the pair reaching only 8 above the Eastern horizon at Saturn's disappearance, the ringed planet being several degrees higher in altitude than Venus. The pair are seen in continuous twilight from latitudes South of about 30 South.

A morning conjunction between Saturn and Mars on April 11th 2024 is well-positioned for Southern hemisphere viewers. The pair are separated in the sky by 0.5 (the apparent diameter of the Full Moon) and they shine at similar magnitudes (+0.9 and +1.1 respectively) which makes for a good opportunity to compare the subtle colours of the two planets by naked-eye or with binoculars. As the fainter planet (Mars) disappears from view in the dawn twilight the pair are positioned 20 high in the ESE in the Northern Tropics, 28 high in the East at the Equator, 31 high in the East at 25 South and 30 high in the ENE at 45 South. Before fading from view the planets are visible for around 40 minutes (at 25 North), 1 hours (Equator), 1 hours (25 South) and 2 hours (45 South).

The conjunction with the widest solar elongation (96) is that between Saturn and Neptune on the morning of June 29th 2025. Since Neptune is the faintest of the observable planets in the night sky (in this case magnitude +7.9) optical aid is always required to observe it. Saturn is easily spotted among the faint stars of Southern Pisces, but a finder chart is required to locate Neptune with certainty. Although taking place close to the celestial equator, this conjunction favours the Southern hemisphere, where local midwinter has just passed (in the Northern hemisphere midsummer has just passed, the bright twilight rendering the conjunction unobservable North of about 48 North). The planetary pair rise in darkness several hours before the Sun and are visible for a leisurely 3 hours (at 30 North), 5 hours (Equator), 5 hours (25 South) and 6 hours (45 South) before Neptune fades from view at first light. By this time the pair are positioned 45 high in the South-east at 30 North, 63 high in the East at the Equator, 65 high in the North at 25 South and 45 high in the North at 45 South. At latitudes South of about 32 South the pair have passed through due North (i.e. transited the meridian) by the time dawn arrives.

The following table details the conjunctions involving Saturn which take place at solar elongations of greater than 15 over the period in question. In several cases, other planets and/or stars are also in the vicinity and these are detailed. Note that, because some of the conjunctions occur in twilight, the planets involved may not appear as bright as their listed magnitude suggests.

Saturn conjunctions with other planets from January 2023 to June 2025. Click for full-size image (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2022)

Saturn conjunctions with other planets from January 2023 to June 2025 (click on thumbnail for full-size table). The column headed 'UT' is the Universal Time (equivalent to GMT) of the conjunction (in hrs : mins). The separation (column 'Sep') is the angular distance between the two planets, measured relative to Saturn, hence on 2024 Apr 11, Mars is positioned 0.5 North of Saturn at the time shown. The 'Favourable Hemisphere' column shows the Hemisphere in which the conjunction will be best observed. Note that observers located close to the Northern/Southern visibility boundary of any given conjunction will find it difficult or impossible to observe because of low altitude and/or bright twilight.

In the 'When Visible' column, a distinction is made between Dawn/Morning visibility and Dusk/Evening visibility; the terms Dawn/Dusk refer specifically to the twilight period before sunrise/after sunset, whilst the terms Evening/Morning refer to the period after darkness falls/before twilight begins (some conjunctions take place in darkness, others do not, depending upon latitude). The 'Con' column shows the constellation in which the planets are positioned at the time of the conjunction.

To find the direction in which the conjunction will be seen, note down the constellation in which the planets are located ('Con' column) on the required date and find the constellation's rising direction (for Dawn/Morning conjunctions) or setting direction (for Dusk/Evening conjunctions) for your particular latitude in the Rise-Set direction table.

Although any given conjunction takes place at a particular instant in time, it is worth pointing out that, because of the planets' relatively slow daily motions, such events are interesting to observe for several days both before and after the actual conjunction date.

There are in fact two methods of defining a planetary conjunction date: one is measured in Right Ascension (i.e. perpendicular to the celestial equator) and the other is measured along the ecliptic, which is inclined at 23 to the Earth's equatorial plane (this is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis in space). An animation showing how conjunction dates are determined by each method can be found on the Jupiter-Uranus 2010-11 triple conjunction page. Although conjunctions measured along the ecliptic can be significantly closer, the Right Ascension method is the more commonly used, and it is the one which is adopted here.

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Aquarius, Pisces, Aries and Taurus:

Constellation Photographs

Photograph showing the constellations of Aries and the Western region of Taurus (Copyright Martin J Powell 2011)___Photograph showing the constellations of Pisces, Aries, Triangulum and the Great Square of Pegasus (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2005)___Photograph showing the constellations of Aquarius, Piscis Austrinus and the Circlet of Pisces (Copyright Martin J Powell 2005)

Aries & Western Taurus

Pisces & Square of Pegasus

Eastern Aquarius & Western Pisces

 Areas of the 2023-31 star chart which are covered by the photographs (click for full-size image)

Aquarius, Pisces, Aries & Taurus (click on the thumbnails for their full-size versions). Photographs showing the region of the night sky through which Saturn passes from 2023 to 2031.

In the Aquarius photo stars are visible down to an apparent magnitude of about +7.5. In the Pisces photo the limiting magnitude is about +6.5 whilst in the Aries & Western Taurus photo it is about +7.5. Note that the three photographs do not have the same scale because of the differing camera lens settings and image resolutions.

Bottom: Diagram showing the areas of the 2023-31 star chart which are covered by the photographs (click on the thumbnail for the full-size image).

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Moon near Saturn Dates, 2024

On one or two days in each month, the Moon can be used as our celestial guide to help in locating Saturn in the sky. Use the following table to see on which dates the Moon is in the vicinity of the planet:

Moon near Saturn dates for 2024 (click for full-size table)Moon near Saturn dates for 2024 (click on thumbnail for full-size table). No date is shown for March because Saturn is too close to the Sun at this time. The Date Range shows the range of dates worldwide (allowing for Time Zone differences across East and West hemispheres). Note that the dates, times and separations at conjunction (i.e. when the two bodies are at the same Right Ascension) are measured from the Earth's centre (geocentric) and not from the Earth's surface (times are given in Universal Time [UT], equivalent to GMT). The Sep. & Dir. column gives the angular distance (separation) and direction of the planet relative to the Moon, e.g. on July 24th at 20:46 UT, Saturn is positioned 0.4 South of the Moon's centre. The Moon Phase shows whether the Moon is waxing (between New Moon and Full Moon), waning (between Full Moon and New Moon), at crescent phase (less than half of the lunar disk illuminated) or gibbous phase (more than half but less than fully illuminated).

A close approach of the Moon to the planet Saturn on March 2nd 2007. Click for full-size photo (Photo: Copyright Martin J. Powell 2007)The Moon made several close approaches to Saturn during 2007, such as on this occasion, photographed by the writer on March 2nd, when the Moon came to within 1 of the planet (geocentric measurement). The photo was obtained by pointing a tripod-mounted digital SLR camera through the eyepiece of an 8-inch reflecting telescope set at 81x magnification (click on the thumbnail for the full-size image). Since the Moon is many times brighter than Saturn, two separate photos were required in order to capture the Moon and Saturn at their correct exposures. From the writer's location in the South-western United Kingdom, the Moon was seen to pass just to the North of the planet (note that the image is inverted, since it was taken through an astronomical telescope).

The Moon also occasionally passes in front of Saturn - an event called a lunar occultation - when seen from various parts of the world. In 2024, a lunar occultation of Saturn takes place in every month from April to December; visit the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan website for more details.

The Moon moves relatively quickly against the background stars in an Eastward direction, at about its own angular width (0.5) each hour (about 12.2 per day). Because it is relatively close to the Earth, an effect called parallax causes it to appear in a slightly different position (against the background stars) when seen from any two locations on the globe at any given instant; the further apart the locations, the greater the Moon's apparent displacement against the background stars. Therefore, for any given date and time listed in the table, the Moon will appear closer to Saturn when seen from some locations than from others. For this reason, the dates shown in the table should be used only for general guidance.

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Saturn's Five Brightest Moons

 

Saturn's five brightest moons (satellites) - namely Titan (magnitude +8.3 at opposition), Rhea (+9.7), Tethys (+10.2), Dione (+10.4) and Enceladus (+11.7) - can easily be seen through telescopes, but only Titan (Saturn's largest moon) is visible through binoculars. The moons are seen to change their position in relation to each other from one night to the next.

Because of Saturn's relatively high axial tilt (26.7 to the plane of its orbit) the Saturnian moons are mostly seen to follow apparent elliptical paths around the planet when viewed from the Earth (this is in contrast to, say, Jupiter's shallow axial tilt (3.1), which causes its moons to present a more-or-less linear motion when seen from the Earth - see Jupiter's moon positions). However, the motion of Saturn's moons does appear more-or-less linear whenever the Earth crosses through the ring-plane of the planet. For about a year on either side of the ring-plane crossing date, transits (when a moon or its shadow passes across the planet's disk), occultations (when a moon passes behind the planet's disk) and eclipses (when a moon enters the planet's shadow) can be observed through telescopes. The next series of such mutual events will begin in May 2024 and will end in February 2026.

The positions of Saturn's five brightest moons can be found using Sky & Telescope's Saturn Moons facility.

Positions of all five moons with an additional three - namely Iapetus (which varies between magnitudes +10.2 and +11.9 at opposition), Mimas (+12.9 at opposition) and Hyperion (+14.2 at opposition) - can be found at the BAA's Computing Section website.

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The Position of Saturn, 2023-31 (Desktop Site)

The Naked-Eye Planets in the Night Sky

Planetary Movements through the Zodiac


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Copyright  Martin J Powell  2022


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